The 2023 judicial rotation: a rotation of abuse and denial of Justice

07 سبتمبر 2023

Press release 

Since the inception of specialized criminal chambers, the yearly judicial rotations have posed significant challenges for the victims. This is primarily because the transfer of judges overseeing these specialized chambers often results in disruptions to their proceedings. The judges tasked with handling transitional justice cases must undergo specialized training to navigate the intricacies of procedures unique to these chambers. Furthermore, there is a considerable time investment required to review the existing case files and the progress made thus far.

The current rotation arrives at a crucial juncture, with numerous cases nearing their final stages, and the victims eagerly anticipating judgments that could not only restore their rights and those of their relatives but also facilitate their rehabilitation and safeguard the memory of the victims and past crimes. To our astonishment, nearly half of the chambers, as per the information available to us, have undergone a significant reshuffling, including the transfer of their presiding judges. This situation is particularly impactful for the Tunis Chamber, which handles more than 60% of all the cases referred to specialized chambers in transitional justice. Notably, the case of Majdi Mnassri, a symbol of the Freedom and Dignity Revolution, has progressed to the pleading stage and is poised for a verdict.

The Tunis chamber, currently vacant due to the transfer of its president, is also handling cases of financial corruption and the misuse of public funds linked to Ben Ali, his family, and close associates (specifically, cases 31 and 35). The Civil Coalition for the Defense of Transitional Justice has previously criticized the significant laxity exhibited by various state institutions, which has resulted in the continued deprivation of the Tunisian people from recovering ill-gotten goods. This stands in stark contrast to the official narrative that underscores the importance of asset recovery.

Furthermore, the judicial rotation has impacted all chambers presiding over cases that have advanced to their final stages, poised for verdict announcements. Notable examples include the case of Kamal Al-Matmati in Gabes, Nabil Barkati in El Kef, and Majdi Mnassri in Tunis. These instances highlight the broader challenges posed by the rotation in chambers dealing with critical transitional justice matters.

Members of the coalition have vehemently denounced the recurring interruptions to the chambers’ proceedings. They have put forth a constructive proposal, advocating for the retention of incumbent judges in transitional justice cases, with due consideration for their promotions. This approach is aimed at preventing unnecessary delays in the legal process and expediting verdicts on these crucial cases, thus safeguarding the right to a fair trial for both victims and the accused. It is important to emphasize that prolonging litigation deadlines inherently constitutes a denial of justice for all parties involved.

Regrettably, our proposal, much like those presented since July 25th, has been met with indifference and closed doors by the current regime. This lack of responsiveness underscores the ongoing challenges faced by those seeking justice within the existing political landscape.

The Civil Coalition for the Defense of Transitional Justice voices its profound concern regarding the persistent efforts by the current regime to undermine the transitional justice process, thereby denying justice to victims of past tyranny. These concerning actions include appointing individuals who were complicit in human rights violations to sensitive positions, attempting to establish an alternative pathway that contradicts the principles of transitional justice for recovering ill-gotten goods (as exemplified by the penal reconciliation committee, which has failed to recover stolen assets), and displaying leniency in executing summons against perpetrators, allowing those responsible for grave human rights abuses to evade accountability thus far.

Furthermore, the Tunisian state’s refusal to enact the Dignity Fund and its endeavor to replace it with an institution that disregards the rights of victims, limiting its mandate solely to reparations for the victims of the Revolution, sends a clear and troubling message. It suggests that the current system does not prioritize the pursuit of truth and the dismantling of the Ben Ali system. Instead, its primary focus appears to be cementing a culture of impunity and shielding the repressive and corrupt elements of the system from accountability. This shift in priorities raises significant concerns about the commitment to justice and human rights within the current regime.

Finally, the coalition condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing endeavors of the regime to undermine the judiciary’s independence and subject it to its control. This alarming trend includes the unilateral dissolution of the legitimate High Judicial Council, followed by its replacement with a temporary council. The regime has also been arbitrarily dismissing judges without affording them due process and blatantly refusing to implement the Administrative Court’s decision to reinstate them to their rightful positions. The coalition emphasizes that the state’s persistent efforts to exert pressure on judges who resist executive authority’s directives are a blatant attempt to extend the executive’s influence over all state institutions. These actions are part of a broader agenda aimed at establishing a unilateral authoritarian regime reminiscent of the oppressive era our country endured prior to the 2010-2011 revolution. Such developments pose a grave threat to the principles of justice, democracy, and the rule of law that Tunisians have strived to uphold and protect.

The members of the Civil Coalition for the Defense of Transitional Justice wish to express the following:

  • Denunciation of Judiciary Independence Targeting: We vehemently denounce any actions taken to undermine the independence of the judiciary, as well as any abuse directed towards those who champion its autonomy.
  • Condemnation of Judicial Process Disruption: We firmly condemn the persistent disruptions in the judicial process of transitional justice, which hinder the pursuit of justice for victims of past injustices.
  • Support for the Association of Judges: We extend our unwavering support to the Association of Judges and all judges who have been adversely affected by systemic abuse in their pursuit of justice.
  • Appreciation for Independent Judges: We deeply appreciate and stand in solidarity with judges who have faced punitive measures due to their commitment to independence and impartiality.
  • Full Support for Civil Society Movements: We offer our complete support to all civil society movements that champion the independence of the judiciary, recognizing its critical role in upholding justice.
  • Call for Coordination: We call upon civil society associations and national organizations to coordinate their efforts and work collectively to bolster the independence of the judiciary, with the ultimate goal of achieving justice and redress for all.

Their demands are as follows:

Retaining Judges in Specialized Departments: They call for the retention of judges in specialized transitional justice departments in their current positions. This would enable these judges to benefit from any promotions while ensuring continuity in handling these critical cases.Swift Resolution of Advanced Cases: They emphasize the need to expedite verdicts in cases that have already reached an advanced stage of litigation, recognizing the urgency of delivering justice to those affected.Preventing Executive Influence on the Judiciary: They demand the cessation of attempts by the executive authority to interfere with or exert influence over the judiciary.Enforcing Summons and Issuing Judgments in Absentia: They insist on the execution of summonses issued against defendants or, if necessary, the issuance of judgments in absentia in cases where it is impossible to secure the presence of the accused.

The Civil coalition for the defense of transitional justice